Megan Branham, Children’s Trust policy and government liaison, and Heidi Aakjer, Safe Kids South Carolina manager, share their take on the significance of Child Passenger Safety Week and the importance of crafting a stronger law to help save the lives of more children involved in motor vehicle accidents.
With the news that Gov. Nikki Haley has proclaimed Sept. 12-19 as Child Passenger Safety Week in South Carolina — which coincides with National Child Passenger Safety Week — the spotlight is shining on the need to keep children safe from harm while traveling in motor vehicles.
The timing is good.
Children’s Trust and Safe Kids South Carolina are hosting the Child Passenger Safety Summit Friday at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, with the following day being National Car Seat Check Saturday.
Our goal remains the prevention of child fatalities and devastating injuries by providing training support for programs that enable child passenger safety technicians to maintain certification and learn the most current information regarding safety regulations, manufacturer updates and equipment.
National data tells us that motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for children over the age of five in the United States. In 2013, more than 2,000 children under the age of 18 were injured in motor vehicle accidents in South Carolina.
The state currently has more than 900 volunteer child passenger safety technicians, who typically are firefighters, law enforcement and EMS workers. But many more are needed. With approximately 600,000 children in South Carolina under the age of 10, these 900 technicians would need to install around 650 seats to reach every child.
According to DHEC, 90 percent of car seats in South Carolina are installed incorrectly, a primary reason that our organization looks to increase the number of technicians and the number of fitting stations, those permanent locations where families can go for car seat installation assistance. There are currently 74 fitting stations in the state.
More also can be done on the legislative front. We need legislators to update South Carolina’s child passenger restraint law. The current law does not meet with American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for child passenger safety. Placing children in both age-appropriate and size-appropriate car and booster seats is necessary to reduce serious and fatal injuries.
Children’s Trust believes updating our law can save children’s lives. A 2013 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that among five states that increased the required car or booster seat age to seven or eight years, seat use tripled while deaths and serious injuries decreased by 17 percent.
It’s time for South Carolina to join the nearly 30 states, including North Carolina and Georgia, that already require booster seats up to age seven in addition to those requiring children to be either eight years old or 4-foot-9 before they can use an adult seat belt.
Let’s make it everyone’s goal to carry the momentum of Child Passenger Safety Week into the coming year and legislative session in order to keep our children safer in motor vehicles.